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Laughter — and family — helps mom with Alzheimer's

By GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 11. 2017 11:38PM
Ruth Broderick, who has Alzheimer's, has a laugh with her daughter, Alice, and son, Pat, in Hooksett last month. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)



When it came to Thanksgiving this year with the Broderick family, the main course being dished out was a whole lot of jokes with a hearty side of laughter.

Ruth Broderick, 75, was certainly the ringleader, serving up as many loving barbs as her daughter, Alice, and son, Pat. The banter back and forth among the three is infectious — and serves to prove that laughter is truly the best medicine.

Ruth Broderick learned she had Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. It was a devastating diagnosis, but the family is committed to providing every moment of her care — and they are doing it by enjoying each other and laughing.

“The one thing we do is smile all the time,” said Alice Broderick of Hooksett. “This is who we are.”

Alice and Pat are among the 15 million family members in the United States providing care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, and it’s a role they share not just with each other, but also with their spouses and their children. It’s a source of great comfort to Ruth.

“They help me out with everything. It’s a wonderful way to be,” Ruth said. “I’m not happy with what I have, but it’s wonderful knowing I have them.”

A recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association shows the Brodericks are not the norm. Of the caregivers surveyed, 91 percent said it should be a family effort, but one in three reported they were doing it alone. About 80 percent reported they wished they had more family help providing care.

“We’re going to do this together,” Alice said. “We made a commitment a long time ago to not let this bother us.”

“We will take each day as it comes,” added Pat.

The family had their suspicions well before Ruth’s 2013 diagnosis, noticing that she would often repeat herself but her doctors said she was fine.

It was one morning at the family’s summer home in Center Barnstead that prompted the extensive testing that revealed the diagnosis. Ruth was making breakfast and asked Pat four times in two minutes how he wanted his eggs. Each time, he responded he wanted them over easy, but she made scrambled eggs.

“We didn’t like it, but we weren’t surprised,” Pat said. “But she hasn’t changed much since. You see it, but really not much has changed.”

Ruth is still very active, helping out with a Meals on Wheels program in Florida, where she spends a few months during the winter. She spends most of her time in New Hampshire, where she loves time with the family at their summer home.

When the time comes, Ruth will live with Alice in Hooksett, and it’s not just Pat and Alice who have committed to Ruth’s care. Their spouses and daughters all want to be a part of caring for Nana.

Knowing she will always be surrounded by family is comforting to Ruth.

“It’s a relief, because in the beginning, you’re wondering and wondering what’s going to happen to you,” Ruth said. “I feel very lucky with the family that I have.”

The jokes certainly help Ruth, too.

“This is really who we are. We are really, really grateful to have each other,” Ruth said.

“And we’re grateful to have you,” responded Alice. “We have the best mother in the world.”

Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday News report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire’s aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging. This series is funded through a grant from the Endowment for Health.


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